Sunday, 14 June 2015

What are you looking at?

The unfortunate side effect of growing up with a visible physical disability is the regular every day issue of the glaring eyes of passers by.  Sure, we’re all human, we all have our positive and negative features.  We’re all attracted to difference, we get curious, we observe others around us.  It’s only natural.

Call it what you will, whether down to interest, curiosity, empathy, sympathy or just plain ignorance, the end result is all the same – to the recipient, it doesn’t feel too good.

Turning heads due to a show-stopping fashion or beauty choice is one thing, and considered positive by many.  But it’s another when you’re just going about your daily business with what can sometimes feel like the eyes of the world upon you.

These may be fleeting glances from one out of four people passing by, but the effects over time can be lasting.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that one would get used to these situations over the course of a lifetime, but believe me, that’s easier said than done.

We all know how hard it can be to get through teenage life unscathed and come out the other side as a self-assured, confident young adult.  Throw in a few negative comments, disapproving glances or even bit of bullying and you’ve got yourself a whopper of a hurdle to get over.

Obviously, I realise there are worse things in life to deal with than the opinions of random strangers, but for a child or teen in the process of figuring out their identity, these negative vibes are an extra hindrance we could all do without.

Having dealt with my share of these situations over the years, some I managed to shrug off and put down to experience, while others remained in the background to surprise me every now and then.  

So frequent were the incidents during those troublesome teenage years, it was not uncommon to hear my sister or a friend coming to my defence.

So regular, in fact, said sister bought me a pink (of course) t-shirt to do talking for us – “what are you staring at?”.

I’m ashamed to say this well-worn piece of fashion history is still lurking somewhere at the back of my wardrobe.  The fact I no longer wear it, may indicate either a change in attitudes or a lessening of the impact they have? Jury’s still out on that one.

I guess what I’ve been learning over the years is that there will always be situations we can’t control.  We can’t change how others behave, but we can control how that behaviour affects us.

So, if people are going to stare, we may as well give them something to stare at.  So whether that is a co-ordinated outfit, statement accessory, or pair of bright purple crutches, these small details can allow us to express ourselves and maybe remind those doing the staring that there is more to us than meets the eye.


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